Mel Barnes

It is 95% certain that human activity is causing climate change, a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says. The final report has not been released, but a leaked copy of the draft has revealed a stark image of the destructive impact climate change will cause in our lifetimes. -----
Two of the most prominent Fairfax newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, have updated their mastheads to include the slogan “Independent. Always.” The slogan alone does not make it clear from who or what they are claiming independence. After all, billionaire Gina Rinehart, one of the world’s richest people, is the single biggest shareholder in the company. Fairfax does have what it calls a Charter of Editorial Independence that says: “Editors alone shall determine the daily editorial content of the newspapers.” The editors know not to step out of line.
The Israeli Law Centre, Shurat HaDin, has filed a complaint under the Racial Discrimination Act with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Stuart Rees and Sydney University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies’ Jake Lynch. The complaint claims Rees and Lynch are supporting racist and discriminatory policies through their support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli government. It is the first time Australia’s anti-racism laws have been used against people involved in the BDS campaign.
The WikiLeaks Party formally announced its Senate candidates on July 25. Three candidates will be standing for the Senate in Victoria, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, author and Monash University gender studies lecturer Leslie Cannold, and RMIT law lecturer Binoy Kampmark. Two candidates will stand in the Senate in NSW — human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter and former diplomat Alison Broinowski. Another two candidates, refugee activist Gerry Georgatos and president of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance Suresh Rajan, will run for the Senate in Western Australia.
Telstra has been sharing its customer’s data information with the FBI and US Department of Justice for at least a decade, the Crikey website revealed on July 12.
Forest protesters disrupted work in the southern Tasmanian town of Esperance on July 16, disrupting operations of Malaysian logging company Ta Ann. The Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) said 40 people occupied the logging area and one person held a tree sit, which was attached to the logging machines. HVEC spokesperson Jenny Weber said: “Controversially Ta Ann continues to receive timber from old growth ecosystems, and this logging area is forest that was promised protection, and now tragically the ancient eucalyptus regnans and wildlife habitat is being lost.
In a massive win for people power, the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) disapproved a project for 16 coal seam gas (CSG) wells in the Illawarra in and around drinking water catchments for greater Sydney. Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said: “This is huge win for the campaign to stop CSG and protect our water. "It is the result of the extraordinary and tireless efforts of so many in the Illawarra community. It is the result of a powerful community campaign that has brought people together to stand up for what's right.”
Protestors called for more privacy protection at rallies held around Australia on July 6 in response to the revelations that US’s National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on the communications of most internet users. Sydney rally organiser Matt Watt from the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition said: “We demand freedom for Edward Snowden, a courageous whistleblower who revealed the wrongdoings by the NSA.
Most of Australia’s fossil fuel reserves — coal, oil and gas — must stay in the ground if we are to keep the climate below a 2°C rise and avoid catastrophic climate change, a new report by the Australian Climate Commission says. The report, The critical decade 2013: Climate change science, risks and responses released on June 15, said “the best chance for staying below the 2°C limit requires global emissions to begin declining as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest.”
The environment movement in Tasmania has split over support for a forest “peace” agreement the Tasmanian Greens and environment groups made with the logging industry. The environment groups have been in negotiations with the industry for almost three years. As the industry declined, environmentalists saw a chance for reform to win an end to the forest wars permanently. The agreement was passed in state parliament on April 30, supported by the Greens and Labor, and opposed the Liberal party. However, many people in the environment movement disagreed with the bill.
A range of socialist and activist groups will be marching together in joint contingents in this year’s May Day rallies across Australia behind banners saying, “It's time for a fightback”. Initiated by the Socialist Alliance, the contingents have been supported by a range of groups, including Resistance, Socialist Alternative, Latin American Social Forum, Solidarity, the Indigenous Social Justice Association, Committee in Solidarity with Cuba, and Sydney University Education Action Group.
The Australian Greens have called on the federal government to end fossil fuel subsidies for big mining companies. The Greens say costings by the Parliamentary Budget Office show that Labor’s spending on fossil fuel subsidies for mining companies will cost the public more than $13 billion over the next four years. Included in these subsidies are diesel fuel tax rebates, accelerated depreciation on assets and accelerated depreciation on exploration.
A capacity crowd of about 350 people filled the room for the opening night of the Marxism 2013 conference in Melbourne on March 28. The forum, called "Uniting the left to resist austerity, war and crisis", heard from six speakers, including Australian unionist Bob Carnegie, striking airline union PALEA president Gerry Rivera, US teacher and socialist Brian Jones, Socialist Alliance co-convener Peter Boyle, Socialist Alternative national executive member Vashti Kenway, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party's (RSP) Kim Bullimore.
When coal seam gas company Metgasco announced on March 13 it had suspended its operations in northern NSW after a long community campaign against it, it was just the latest in a series of setbacks for the CSG industry. It followed the suspension of an AGL project in Campbelltown in western Sydney after community protests. Another company, Arrow Energy, has withdrawn from NSW and wants to transfer its licence to Dart Energy so it can focus on expanding in central Queensland.
Late one night in 2007, in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia, 21-year-old Australian man Jock Palfreeman was walking home after a night out with friends. He saw a group of about 15 men attacking two others. The two men were Roma, an ethnic minority who are often the targets of racist attacks by neo-Nazi gangs. Outraged, Palfreeman intervened to prevent the attack, but instead the crowd turned their violence on him, hurling concrete blocks. Palfreeman pulled a knife to protect himself and during the subsequent fight, one man was stabbed and later died.
All the stereotypes about western Sydney were covered last week when Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visited dozens of electorates in the area to try to stop them switching their vote to the Liberals in September’s federal election. She spoke about being tough on foreign workers, promising “Aussie” jobs for “Aussie” workers, using rhetoric about “queue jumpers” borrowed from the asylum seeker debate. She also promised to build a new WestConnex motorway that would connect western Sydney to the CBD.

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